May 29, 1865: Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction Proclamations

We’ve heard a lot of talk about Reconstruction and public memory recently. Today offers a chance to measure what people might do about that public memory, or if it’s more talk than action. After all, we’ve marked the sesquicentennial of other documents, and yet the two documents issued under the president’s name this day 150 years ago fundamentally shaped what happened for the next dozen years.

Having accepted the existence of the Lincoln Reconstruction governments in several former Confederate states, Johnson outlined his own policies concerning the restoration of civil government in the remaining states, starting with North Carolina. He named provisional governors who would oversee the process of erecting new state constitutions and governments. The process excluded blacks from voting: the electorate was defined as those would have been eligible to vote in 1860.

Johnson’s second proclamation outlined his pardon policy. Excluded were several classes of individuals, including high-ranking Confederate officials, and those who claimed over $20,000 in taxable property, a Johnson twist designed to make the large landowners seek pardons from him. However, the granting of a pardon restored all of one’s property except for slaves … which would challenge efforts to engage in widespread confiscation and redistribution of property.

I await the usual insightful commentary on causes and consequences. Let’s see what the Reconstruction sesquicentennial will bring us.

May 24, 1980: 35 Years Ago Today

:)

Here’s the Islanders’ radio call of the goal:

The usual play-by-play call that accompanies this video is the Canadian TV broadcast, but Dan Kelly, the long-time voice of the St. Louis Blues, called the game for American viewers, who saw the game on CBS. Here’s that call:

There are moments that happen in sports that you know you’ll never forget even as they happen before your eyes (whether live or on TV). For me, this continues to top the list.

Lincoln on Labor and Capital

Much is made in some corners about Abraham Lincoln and the rise of capitalism, sometimes in conjunction with the rise of the American nation-state. But what did Lincoln himself have to say about this subject? Read what he told the people of Wisconsin in 1859 at their state agricultural fair:

The world is agreed that labor is the source from which human wants are mainly supplied. There is no dispute upon this point. From this point, however, men immediately diverge. Much disputation is maintained as to the best way of applying and controlling the labor element. By some it is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital—that nobody labors, unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow, by the use of that capital, induces him to do it. Having assumed this, they proceed to consider whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent; or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far they naturally conclude that all laborers are necessarily either hired laborers, or slaves. They further assume that whoever is once a hired laborer, is fatally fixed in that condition for life; and thence again that his condition is as bad as, or worse than that of a slave. This is the “mud-sill” theory.

But another class of reasoners hold the opinion that there is no such relation between capital and labor, as assumed; and that there is no such thing as a freeman being fatally fixed for life, in the condition of a hired laborer, that both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them groundless. They hold that labor is prior to, and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed–that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor. Hence they hold that labor is the superior–greatly the superior–of capital.

They do not deny that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital. The error, as they hold, is in assuming that the whole labor of the world exists within that relation. A few men own capital; and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital, hire, or buy, another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class–neither work for others, nor have others working for them. Even in all our slave States, except South Carolina, a majority of the whole people of all colors, are neither slaves nor masters. In these Free States, a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their families–wives, sons and daughters–work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand, nor of hirelings or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital; that is, labor with their own hands, and also buy slaves or hire freemen to labor for them; but this is only a mixed, and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class. Again, as has already been said, the opponents of the “mud-sill” theory insist that there is not, of necessity, any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. There is demonstration for saying this. Many independent men, in this assembly, doubtless a few years ago were hired laborers. And their case is almost if not quite the general rule.

The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This, say its advocates, is free labor–the just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all–gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all. If any continue through life in the condition of the hired laborer, it is not the fault of the system, but because of either a dependent nature which prefers it, or improvidence, folly, or singular misfortune. I have said this much about the elements of labor generally, as introductory to the consideration of a new phase which that element is in process of assuming. The old general rule was that educated people did not perform manual labor. They managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of producing it to the uneducated. This was not an insupportable evil to the working bees, so long as the class of drones remained very small. But now, especially in these free States, nearly all are educated–quite too nearly all, to leave the labor of the uneducated, in any wise adequate to the support of the whole. It follows from this that henceforth educated people must labor. Otherwise, education itself would become a positive and intolerable evil. No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive. From these premises the problem springs, “How can labor and education be the most satisfactorily combined?”

By the “mud-sill” theory it is assumed that labor and education are incompatible; and any practical combination of them impossible. According to that theory, a blind horse upon a tread-mill, is a perfect illustration of what a laborer should be—all the better for being blind, that he could not tread out of place, or kick understandingly. According to that theory, the education of laborers, is not only useless, but pernicious, and dangerous. In fact, it is, in some sort, deemed a misfortune that laborers should have heads at all. Those same heads are regarded as explosive materials, only to be safely kept in damp places, as far as possible from that peculiar sort of fire which ignites them. A Yankee who could invent a strong handed man without a head would receive the everlasting gratitude of the “mud-sill” advocates.

But Free Labor says “no!” Free Labor argues that, as the Author of man makes every individual with one head and one pair of hands, it was probably intended that heads and hands should co-operate as friends; and that that particular head, should direct and control that particular pair of hands. As each man has one mouth to be fed, and one pair of hands to furnish food, it was probably intended that that particular pair of hands should feed that particular mouth—that each head is the natural guardian, director, and protector of the hands and mouth inseparably connected with it; and that being so, every head should be cultivated, and improved, by whatever will add to its capacity for performing its charge. In one word Free Labor insists on universal education.

He repeated these themes in his first annual message in December 1861:

It is not needed, nor fitting here, that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connexions, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above labor, in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connexion with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it, induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers, or what we call slaves. And further it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer, is fixed in that condition for life.

Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed; nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital, producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and, with their capital, hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class—neither work for others, nor have others working for them. In most of the southern States, a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither slaves nor masters; while in the northern a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men with their families—wives, sons, and daughters—work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand, nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital—that is, they labor with their own hands, and also buy or hire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed, and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class.

Again: as has already been said, there is not, of necessity, any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these States, a few years back in their lives, were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way to all—gives hope to all, and consequent energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all. No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty—none less inclined to take, or touch, aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them, till all of liberty shall be lost.

What do you make of these passages?

Silence from SCV Headquarters on the VMFA and the War Memorial Chapel?

Today I was reading a post from Nick Sacco on a recent controversy in St. Louis involving a Confederate monument. Apparently some people are uneasy about the monument and want to discuss whether it should be removed. What intrigued me was that our friend Ben Jones, the chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, chimed in on the issue.

As I’ve said before, I find Ben a likeable guy, but I am puzzled by something. Has he written a similar essay concerning the debate over the display of the Confederate flag at Richmond’s War Memorial Chapel? After all, we have been told that the 2010 decision of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to rescind the display of the Confederate flag on the portico of the chapel (a practice that had been going on all of seventeen years, judging by the failure of Confederate heritage groups to offer an image of such a display prior to 1993) sparked the creation of what someone has called “the most powerful and influential southern heritage organization in existence” today. In 2015 the VMFA ceased leasing the War Memorial Chapel altogether.

It’s reasonable to ask why we’ve seen nothing from Ben Jones or the SCV about this issue. Yes, we were treated to (then) SCV commander-in-chief Michael Givens taking a guest turn as a Flagger …

Givens and Hathaway

… but that’s been it.

Can anyone explain the silence of Ben Jones and the SCV’s national organization concerning this controversy? If I’ve overlooked evidence of a public declaration, would someone provide it? Thanks.

Defining What’s a “Real Southerner”

Some people asked what I meant by “real southerner.” I’m simply pointing out that there are people out there who are very interested in defining who is and who is not a southerner for reasons sometimes connected with issues of heritage.  Sometimes I’ve been told that I need to understand what a “real southerner” is.

So I turn to all of you: how do you define “southerner”? Does the term “real southerner” have any utility?

You tell me.

Real Southerners and Confederate Pride

It’s a simple question, really: is it mandatory that anyone who calls themselves a real southerner must take pride in the Confederacy? Can you be a real southerner without taking pride in the Confederacy?

You tell me.

Research Exercise: What Percentage of Southerners Supported the Confederacy?

Here’s a research exercise that should engage some people (including a certain mathematician who reads this blog frequently):

What percentage of southerners supported the Confederacy?

For purposes of this exercise, we hold to the following definitions:

1.  “The South” is defined as the fifteen slave states of the 1860 census. We are not including New Jersey or points west (that would make this too easy to define the Confederacy as a minority movement). Nor will we count the Indian Territory later known as Oklahoma.

2.  All people counted in the 1860 census–free and enslaved–regardless of race or color, are defined as southerners. Recall that the three major categories are whites, free blacks, and enslaved people.

Left to you is to offer an estimation (complete with justification) of the number of southern whites who stayed loyal to the Union.

Show your work so that we may follow your reasoning. Let’s allow until next Monday as the deadline for solutions.

The Virginia Flaggers, the VMFA, and the War Memorial Chapel: Much Ado Over Nothing?

By now you all know about the decision of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts not to renew its lease agreement with a camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans over the use of the Confederate War Memorial Chapel on the grounds of the VMFA.

Here’s what the Virginia Flaggers announced on their Facebook page:

VaFlaggerExcusesVMFA

This account contradicts a claim offered by Billy Bearden in the comments section of this blog that the lease offered the SCV was a last-minute surprise: the above account suggests that both parties had been negotiating for quite some time. Perhaps the Flaggers need to get their stories straight. They’ve had years to do that.

The Flaggers’ own account also testifies to the organization’s inability to affect the stance of the VMFA. The Flaggers themselves claim that they have nothing to do with the position of the VMFA in 2015, because it was what the VMFA wanted to do in 2010; yet the 2015 agreement shows that matters have not improved, suggesting that the past four and a half years of protesting practiced by the Virginia Flaggers have amounted to nothing when it comes to the VMFA’s position. Other people have claimed that the behavior of the Virginia Flaggers has not helped matters: Susan Hathaway’s disappearance from the sidewalk can be traced to concern about repercussions should the VMFA complain to her employer, who has contracts with the VMFA, about her conduct.

In short, although the Virginia Flaggers like to talk about their importance to the cause of Confederate heritage, all they have done is to testify to their impotence when it comes to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. All the Flaggers have achieved during the past several weeks is to erect a third, rather small, flag in downtown Lexington. They claim that size doesn’t matter, but that location is everything.

As before, the blog “Southern Flaggers” offered the claim that the VMFA was in violation of Virginia state law when it acted as it did. Yet, although the Virginia Flaggers have been around for four and a half years, the organization has failed to fight for the rights of Confederate heritage by filing a lawsuit. They have raised money for more flagpoles and flags, and raised money to defend Tripp Lewis when Lewis ran afoul of the law, but they have failed to raise money to battle the VMFA in court. That is a clear demonstration of the group’s priorities: spectacle over substance. Nor have we seen either the Sons of Confederate Veterans or the Southern Legal Research Center, led by Kirk David Lyons, take legal action. This is a rather limp defense of Confederate heritage, suggesting that some folks don’t want to put their money where their mouth is. Perhaps all they want to do is to walk the sidewalks and run their mouths.

Confederate heritage deserves better … although critics of Confederate heritage smile when such tomfoolery is passed off as defending Confederate heritage. After all, isn’t it time for another prom dress lawsuit?

The failure of the Virginia Flaggers and other Confederate heritage groups to take effective action against the VMFA suggests that the real weakness in the movement is internal, not external. Kevin Levin has written that more and more people are turning their backs on a fading Confederate heritage. He may be right, although I don’t care to make such predictions. I’ve already offered my take on this issue. But what has happened at the Confederate War Memorial Chapel … and what has not happened … testifies to the ineffectiveness of Confederate heritage groups and their failure to take meaningful action to protect what they claim to prize so dearly.

There are those people who think that certain Confederate heritage groups are their own worst enemies. There are other critics who claim that they are the unwitting allies of their critics, almost as if they are a false flag operation (pun intended). What seems clear is that the case of the Confederate War Memorial Chapel clearly demonstrates the inability of certain people to effect meaningful and lasting change.

Nothing to see here, folks … just move along.